Jumping dogs stop NYers in their tracks
By Daniel Goldberg | Special to amNewYork
September 19, 2007
New Yorkers who watched a dozen competitive canines perform acrobatic leaps into a giant pool in Bryant Park on Tuesday were surprised to learn that they were watching one of the fastest growing sports in America.
“Shut up, you’re kidding,” said one young woman who stopped to watch what she said she couldn’t believe was even a sport.
But the DockDogs National Championship Series is no joke, said Grant Reeves, CEO of DockDogs, the sanctioning body for regional, national and international dog dock jumping.
“In 2002, there were 240 dogs competing,” Reeves said. “Now there are 8,400.”
The sport even has coverage on a cable network. The Outdoor Channel plans to broadcast both the Big Air event, which measures distance, and the Extreme Vertical event, which measures height, as a seven-part original series beginning Oct. 4.
Though many New Yorkers came and went throughout the day, there were always at least 200 people oohing and aahing as the dogs ran down a 40-foot dock and splashed into four feet of water.
Frisbees and chew toys were given out to the crowd, but the real attraction was an ink print on a small promotional card — an aptly titled ‘pawtograph.’ The sport’s rules are fairly simple but have evolved.
For example, a few years ago, a man in Arkansas wanted to throw a live raccoon into the pool to entice his dog to jump farther.
Told by the judges that he could not, the man pulled out the official DockDogs rulebook and pointed out that there was in fact no law prohibiting live raccoon throwing.
The judges held their ground, but the rules were amended the next day so that now nothing that is alive — or ever was — can be thrown into the pool.
Aside from that, DockDogs is welcoming to all, and Reeves gave that populist spirit credit for the sport’s ballooning participation.
“Anyone can do it,” Reeves said. “As long as the dog is at least six months old, there is no discrimination.”
Tom Dropik, of New Prague, Minn., has been competing for six years.
And though Dropik’s retired dog Tucker was featured in ESPN The Magazine and is in the DockDogs Hall of Fame, “this is a sport that doesn’t require much training,” Dropik said.
There is no entry fee, and even New Yorkers who were walking their dogs in the park were invited to participate.
For those who want to get serious and attempt to win the $200 to $250 that comes with first prize, Dropik’s Web site, sportmutt.com, offers training tips and an instructional video.
Though this is Dock Dogs’ first event in New York City, not all the dogs were out-of-towners.
Anna Balsamo, of Mamaroneck, travels with her 3-year-old Belgian Tervuren, Pico, to competitions at her own expense.
“We’ve been cross-country twice,” said Balsamo, who, like other handlers, has a day job as well.
“You know that Motel 6 song? Man, that is us.” The festivities also helped raise funds to fight animal cancer, which affects millions of pets every year.